Medicare is a government-sponsored health insurance program for Americans who are 65 years or older, and certain younger individuals with qualifying disabilities, End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). There are different methods of signing up for Medicare and finding enrollment assistance, including seeking the assistance of a local Medicare insurance agent. The Medicare enrollment period that applies to you depends on the circumstances under which you enroll and when you become eligible. In this post, we outline when and how to enroll in Medicare.
Automatic Enrollment in Medicare
If you are already receiving retirement benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board or Social Security Administration before your 65th birthday, you will be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). If you are automatically enrolled in Medicare, you should receive your Medicare card in your mail three months prior to your 65th birthday.
On the other hand, if you are interested in obtaining supplemental benefits to compliment your Original Medicare benefits, these additional enrollment options are not automatic. To gain valuable knowledge regarding your available options, seek out the assistance of a local licensed Medicare insurance agent, who can provide helpful insights and efficient service at no cost to you.
Early Enrollment in Medicare Due to a Qualifying Disability
If you are eligible for Medicare because of a qualifying disability, your enrollment is automatic after 25 months of receiving disability benefits. However, if you qualify for Medicare because you’ve been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), your Medicare enrollment will be automatic in the first month of receiving your disability benefits. For those diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), eligibility for Medicare begins once you need dialysis or a kidney transplant due to permanent kidney failure. As a general rule of thumb, people under 65 years of age who are beneficiaries of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program are automatically enrolled in Medicare after a 24-month waiting period. Only those diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) have no waiting period for Medicare eligibility and will be enrolled the first month they are approved for SSDI benefits.
Manual Medicare Enrollment
If you’re not a beneficiary of Social Security Administration or Railroad Retirement Board retirement benefits, you will have to manually sign up for Medicare when you turn 65 and become eligible. If you’re turning 65 and delaying retirement, then you must meet coverage requirements by either enrolling in Medicare or maintaining creditable coverage.
There are multiple enrollment periods available during which eligible beneficiaries can sign up for Medicare, though it’s important to enroll when Medicare first considers you eligible. If you fail to enroll on time, you could incur permanent late penalties and face delays in coverage. Here are the enrollment periods during which you must manually sign up for Medicare.
Initial Enrollment Period
The Initial Enrollment Period is the first and often best option to sign up for Medicare Part A and/or Medicare Part B once you are eligible. This is a seven-month window that includes the first three months before you turn 65, the month that you turn 65, and the three months after you turn 65.
General Enrollment Period
If you fail to enroll in Medicare during the Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up during the annual General Enrollment Period, which starts on January 1 and ends on March 31 of each calendar year. However, you may pay a late enrollment fee for Original Medicare, which is why it is recommended that you enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period specific to your birthdate.
Special Enrollment Period
Special circumstances may cause you to delay your Medicare enrollment. These qualifying circumstances can include, but are not limited to, life events such as working past 65, moving or changes in your existing Medicare coverage. For example, you may have had health coverage under your employer if you were still working when you turned 65 years old, or you were covered by your spouse’s health insurance. The actual start and end date for your Special Enrollment Period will vary depending on your specific situation and this will determine your eligibility and enrollment.
How to Sign Up for Medicare
If you are not automatically enrolled in Medicare, you can enroll over the phone, through mail, online or in person (when available) at your local Social Security Administration office during one of the aforementioned enrollment periods. To ensure you’re signing up on time and during the correct enrollment period, it may be helpful to reach out to a local Medicare insurance agent for enrollment assistance. Besides offering assistance via resources and information on Medicare plans, independent Medicare insurance agents can also provide you with guidance through the enrollment process.
Once you’re enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), you are eligible to enroll in additional supplemental plans offered by private insurance companies during the appropriate enrollment period. These plans include Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans. A local independent Medicare insurance agent will help you evaluate the different Medicare plans available in your area and provide you with information that helps you choose one that best suits your health and financial needs.
Applying and enrolling into Medicare should not be a stressful experience. If you are required to enroll in Medicare when you turn 65, but will not be automatically enrolled, you should prepare for enrollment in advance so you’re ready to sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period. A local Medicare insurance agent can help you learn more about available plans and can provide assistance with the enrollment process. Contact our team at Medicare Portal today to get a head start on preparation for Medicare enrollment.